With inflation rising everything is getting more expensive including sport. As a result, are some sports becoming accessible only to those who can afford it?
We all know sport is good for our health and wellbeing, it’s something we should participate in regularly to keep fit.
There are a huge range of sports to choose from across the U.K with hugely varied price points. However, with busy lives and money becoming tighter many people are sacrificing expensive sports in favour for cheaper options.
But are people missing out because of the expense of these sports?
With the winter Olympics in full swing I overheard a conversation in which several people stated, ‘it’s the sports of the rich’ seemingly affirming the idea that snow sports are inaccessible to the working class.
Delving deeper this seems to be the perception with many sports from equestrian to cricket.
Recently a story went viral about the work of an Equestrian centre called Ebony Horse Club in the heart of London.
Surrounded by concrete high-rises the quaint centre is situated in Brixton with a backdrop that is a far cry from the rolling hills seen at many riding centres.
It is a charity that works to improve the skills, education and aspirations of children growing up in a deprived community by providing access to a sport normally inaccessible to this community.
For example, riding in Hyde Park will set you back £109 for a group lesson with a block of 10 costing a staggering £1,250.
In comparison, local to Teesside is Kirklevington riding centre, used by the university equestrian society and offers group lessons for as little as £15.
Megan Henry head of the Equestrian Club at Teesside spoke about the positives of horse riding saying: “It’s a great release having something I can go to with like-minded people to de-stress and I think it’s a really rewarding unique sport with both physical and mental benefits.”
Snow sports don’t fare much better – take skiing for example, kit can cost around £380 alone with lift passes at £100 a day and lessons costing £65 or more.
A recent study into participation by Sports England saw it decrease from 31% between the years 2005 – 2006 to 23% in 2016 as money becomes tighter.
Another key issue is the travel expenses with many young people having to work around school or university.
Jack Willis who regularly takes part in Skiing in Montgenevre, France challenged this saying: “I agree that schools and communities should do more but it’s difficult when we live in a climate that can’t accommodate snow but they should encourage trips to dry ski slopes. Many ski companies are reducing prices to entice customers and I honestly feel that now more than ever is the best time and cheapest to go on a ski holiday.”
Cricket is a sport that is also perceived as for the rich however it is widely played, presenting the issue that some sports may be simply perceived as ‘posh’ yet are accessible to anyone.
Georgi Walker plays at Sessay Cricket Club in Thirsk and talking about the misconceptions said: “In the past it definitely was for ‘amateur gentlemen’ only but now many young boys and girls are encouraged into playing cricket at school and local clubs. Last years “All Stars” scheme was designed to improve junior participation in cricket.”
Speaking about how accessible the sport is now she said: “I think cricket is one of the easier sports to get involved with. Clubs have shared kit and there are usually an option of junior teams and many adult teams especially in Darlington area.”
One of the most accessible sports is running with Race for Life entry up from 120,000 to 750,000.
Paul Cook is a coach and membership secretary for Darlington Harriers Running Club and when asked how integral it is to the local community said: “Very much so, we have over 420 members currently of all different ages and backgrounds. Our oldest member is 83 and the youngest is 7. The club has seen athletes perform at the Olympics, European Championships and Commonwealth Games.”
Discussing what makes the sport so appealing Paul said: “It’s a social thing, it brings together all ages and abilities whose common goal is to be a better runner. The health benefits are fantastic and its low cost. It can be done at any time, in any weather and location and allows people with limited time to get active without impacting on their busy lives.”
Membership at Darlington Harriers costs a mere £1 a week and Parkrun now offers free 5km timed runs every Saturday morning across the U.K.
Looking to the future a new snow centre is planned for Middlesbrough including ski slopes and an ice climbing wall.
The company behind it estimates it will attract 2.25 million visitors a year.
The centre could help those unable to afford ski holidays to access snow sports and local schools and universities could also get involved and take advantage of the facilities.
The next nearest place to take part in winter sports is Silksworth sports complex at Sunderland which boasts two dry ski slopes.
For people wanting to get involved in more expensive sports many people recommend second hand or hired equipment and going for group lessons rather than private.
You can even get started playing golf with five-week beginner courses from Get into Golf for £25, including equipment.
Businesses are now also getting more involved supporting local sport to help drive costs down and many schools are now driving participation through the active school’s programme and setting up community sport hubs.
Some sports are simply more expensive than others and the general consensus is that the cost of these sports makes participation lower.
Many people are striving to find a way to make ends meet to enable them to carry on participating in the sport they love.
With some digging, there are ways to at least try your hand at some new sports.
Universities often offer a variety for students to help stay active and try something new whilst studying.
Unfortunately, much seems dependent on how determined you are to save and take part as the government funding is not available for these higher end sports at the moment.
To get involved with running at Darlington Harriers or join a running group the full joining process and information can be found on the website www.darlingtonharriers.co.uk
Details for Teesside Universities sports clubs and how you can get involved can be found at https://www.tees-su.org.uk/get_involved/clubs/
Trainee Journalist at Teesside University